Armistice Day Letters to the Editors!

November 16, 2016

by Lucas Berard

Below is excerpt from it's original publication.

My experiences have allowed me to see the relentless cycle of fear, anger, attack, and retaliation- and I do everything I can now to throw a wrench into the machine that is profiting off of so much human suffering. A machine fueled by hateful and demeaning rhetoric, and thrives in societies that lack empathy for other peoples and cultures.

I wish I could say that doesn’t resemble MY country, but I’m not so sure anymore. I love my country enough to warn it when I see it making self-destructive decisions. I see it as my sworn duty, a mindset I share with the many members of both Veterans For Peace, and Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Years into this self-imposed mission, I’m still surprised to see so many folks turn their nose up when I mention the concept of pursuing peace- like it’s a dirty word or something. Peace is noble, peace is strength, peace is the central message of many religious leaders, including Jesus Christ. Read the red words. Never once does he glorify war and fighting, but spoke against it numerous times. He preached love above all else, especially when it’s difficult or even downright risky.

Like Armistice Day, we’ve lost a part of what we once were, and we’ve been drifting toward larger and longer conflicts ever since, and we’re losing our empathy, a critical part in any respectable and sustainable people or country. I believe that if we can reclaim that empathy, we will reclaim a part of what it is to be an American, and in doing so, find solid, peaceful footing again.

Peace is possible- but it takes a real, determined desire to create and sustain it. If we truly wish to honor our veterans, both here and gone, as well as our own country, we must remember the true costs of war; they are far steeper than most of us realize.


by Karen L. Stoddard, associate member of Veterans For Peace
Webster, New York
 
The original intent for Veterans Day was to be "a day dedicated to the cause of world peace" as it was observed at the end of World War I.  After an extremely destructive and deadly war, the world came together to recognize the need for lasting peace.  After World War II, Congress re-branded it as Veterans Day.  Instead of honoring the veterans and the cause of peace, it has morphed into honoring the military and glorifying war.

Our nation needs to return to Armistice Day, a day for peace instead of a day for displays of militarism.  It is especially relevant after a very divisive presidential campaign and election.


by Bill Christofferson, Milwaukee Chapter 102.  Published in the Urban Milwaukee.

November 11, Veterans Day, is a day to honor all who have served in the US armed forces, whether in wartime or peacetime, at home or abroad. Veterans who wore the uniform in service of their country deserve that recognition.

But somehow the day has become more a celebration and display of militarism than a day to celebrate veterans.

That is especially unfortunate and ironic because the date was first observed as Armistice Day, a day to celebrate the end of World War I and promote world peace.

World War I, the “war to end all wars” ended on the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Thirty-eight million, combatants and civilians, had been killed or wounded. The world was horrified by the carnage.

Congress responded to a hope among Americans for no more wars by passing a resolution calling on Armistice Day to be marked by “exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding.” Later, Congress added that November 11 was to be “a day dedicated to the cause of world peace.”

In 1954 Congress changed the name to Veterans Day, and in the years since it has morphed into a flag-waving display of patriotism that often seems to honor the military and war as much as it does those who served.

We don’t talk about veterans in these days of endless war; we call them warriors, as though every veteran were exposed to combat. But only a small percentage of our veterans have actually experienced combat. Even those deployed to a war zone are more likely to end up in supporting roles, not in battle.

That is not to take away anything from anyone who served. In fact, every man or woman who takes the oath and puts on a uniform is exposed to the potential that they will be asked to risk their life. Once they enlist, who gets what job or orders to deploy is beyond their control.

Vietnam Veterans Against the War has long had a slogan, “Honor the warrior, not the war.”

That is exactly what Veterans Day should do. It is not at all incompatible to honor veterans while promoting peace and an end to war as an instrument of foreign policy.

That is what Veterans for Peace has done since 1985, honoring veterans while educating the public about the true costs of war. Ironically, the organizers of Milwaukee’s Veterans Day parade have refused to allow the local Veterans for Peace chapter to take part in the parade. In Milwaukee, there is no place for peace on Veterans Day.

Veterans for Peace will observe Armistice Day with a program in the City Hall rotunda at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 11. The public is welcome.


 
Honoring Veterans Beyond The Flag Waving by Sarah G. Wilton
 
Sandwiched between Columbus Day, The Pumpkin Festival and Thanksgiving, we have Veterans Day.
 
Between Halloween costumes and Thanksgiving turkey, it’s hard to fit in the appropriate recognition of veterans beyond the usual sound-bites. This letter is not to critique U.S. holidays and traditions, but to argue that supporting veterans goes beyond linking Veterans Day to support for U.S. foreign policy goals — especially at the expense of caring for those veterans who helped to implement those goals. As a cliché from a Veterans for Peace cadence goes,
 
“Hey, Hey Uncle Sam — We Remember Vietnam. ... They Wave the Flag When You Attack. But When You Return They Turn Their Back.”
 
The idea of “flag waving” or appealing to one’s emotions, in contrast to their logic, has been used since Manifest Destiny by corporations, the media and U.S. politicians to exploit patriotism and nationalism. Though U.S. foreign policy has sometimes been subject to debate, today’s political parties are hardly indistinguishable in their foreign policies.
 
What is new is the ecological harm done by late 20th century weapons and technologies used to project American power. Fifty years after U.S. forces applied Agent Orange in Vietnam, some portions of that country remain “hot” or so permanently toxic that they are uninhabitable. Similarly is depleted uranium used in the Middle East, Afghanistan and the Balkans. In at least Iraq, this has left a legacy of exponential increases in birth defects and cancers, some similar only to those seen in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Aside from the carnage wrought on innocent civilians that are and have been direct victims of these interventions, this toxicity also reaps blowback for US veterans — immediately and latently.
 
Veterans are beneficiaries of an American military health care system that was catalyzed in the aftermath of the American Civil War. The Civil War is recognized for beginning the symbiosis between the medical and military technologies. “Advanced” military technologies such as the Minie balls, and ordnance and artillery, resulted in casualties that fostered advances in prosthetics, plastic surgery and expansion of military hospitals and government sponsored ambulances.
 
Today’s medical technologies are still challenged to keep pace with casualties resulting from 21st century conflicts’ weapons technologies. Citing The Congressional Research Service, the Wall Street Journal noted (May 2014) more than 1,500 service members in Iraq and Afghanistan had battle-related injuries that required amputation between 2000 and 2013; an additional 6,872 suffered “severe or penetrating” traumatic brain injuries; almost 300,000 suffered some type of traumatic brain injury. The number of VA patients visiting a VA hospital rose from 3.4 million in 2000 to 5.6 million in 2012. But despite receiving more budget increases than any other federal agency or department, critics claim the VA is still unable to keep up with demand.
 
The demand for VA services is likely to increase if service members can claim service related illnesses from depleted uranium exposure in Afghanistan, the Middle East or the Balkans. DU, a byproduct of the uranium enrichment process, is used for armor piercing shells that, when detonated in munitions, pulverizes into a fine dust upon impact. Residue can remain in the dust, in the air or soil and be breathed or ingested.
 
The lag in treatment of DU related illnesses is analogous to the lag in association of Agent Orange with its related illnesses in Vietnam veterans. Both weapons create latent poisons that may appear later in the veteran or in his or her offspring.
 
Agent Orange legislation was not passed until 16 years after the end of the Vietnam conflict; legislation to recognize Vietnamese victims (within and outside the U.S.) was only introduced in 2013 by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, D-Calif.
 
Congressman Jim McDermott, D-Wash., successfully introduced an amendment to the 2006 Defense Authorization Bill a requirement to study possible U.S. service members’ adverse health effects from U.S. employment of DU. Their office is awaiting a response.
 
To honor veterans, leave the flag waving to the chest thumping politicians.
Rather than turning your back, promote legislation that ensures resources are available to treat veterans’ health requirements.
 
If you have to wave a flag, make it a peace flag. Nov. 11, after all, was initially observed as Armistice Day.

by John Ketwig

Originally posted in Roanoke, Virginia Times

As both the presidential election and Veterans Day approach, it’s important to recall that Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day, an international celebration of peace at the conclusion of World War I.

While the candidates debate cutting the costs of education, health care, Social Security, clean water and environmental issues, more than half of our country’s discretionary spending is funneled directly to the military, with very questionable results. Yes, our national debt is fast approaching twenty trillion dollars.

The Defense Department insists it is “impossible” to audit the Pentagon’s books. We recently learned that the Army cannot account for $65 trillion (not a typo!) that slipped through its fingers in 2015. Truth is, America spends more on militarism than the next 13, 17 or all the countries of the world combined. Our military is certainly not operating with “depleted” resources.

More important, it has not prevailed in any significant conflict since World War II. The Vietnam War was ostensibly fought to contain communism, our high-tech weapons accounted for at least 3.5 million deaths, mostly civilians, and in the end communist governments ruled Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in similar destruction, and the Middle East is awash in blood as a result of American intervention.

We currently maintain more than 800 military installations or bases around the globe, far more than any other nation. Our “special operations” forces operate in approximately 135 of the planet’s 190 countries. As we lament America’s stagnant economy, it is interesting to note that the U.S. controls over 50 percent of the world’s arms market (more than the next 14 arms-exporting nations combined) and provides military equipment and training to 160 nations. Far too often, we supply arms to both the good guys and the bad guys.

America’s parents quietly accept that their children’s military service is apt to result in PTSD. Recently, the Veterans Administration suggested that veteran suicides have dropped to 20 per day, down from 22. Those estimates fail to mention that the vast majority of America’s states and communities have no established means of reporting veteran suicides to the VA or any other data collection agency.

No one really knows how many veterans are dying of self-inflicted wounds, but the number is surely higher than the VA estimates. Suicides are also increasing in the active-duty military, (a very separate statistic), so they have stopped reporting them to the public.

Modern American warfare features such terrible weapons and indiscriminate tactics that many of our soldiers emerge from battle feeling they have committed war crimes. Statistics promise that one of every three women enlisting in our military today will be raped by a co-worker within the first two years of their “service.” Like the Agent Orange victims of America’s war in Vietnam, our troops in the Middle East are experiencing health problems related to depleted uranium weapons and the caustic smoke from illegal open burn pits.

Many of our installations in Iraq were built atop Saddam Hussein’s abandoned chemical weapons facilities. We quietly accept that neither Congress, the Pentagon nor the VA will recognize or treat the illnesses related to service in the armed forces. Veterans realize the promises of the candidates are meaningless, as the military-industrial complex will never admit that modern war is harmful to its participants.

The presidential election reveals that significant portions of the American public believe our “democracy” has been sold out to the big banks and corporate interests while our infrastructure rusts and corrodes, our children can’t read, we fear our family’s finances will be wiped out by a health emergency, college graduates are deep in debt and corporate profiteers deny the obvious climate crisis.

The candidates suggest we invest even more of our nation’s wealth into a supposedly “depleted” military, and to base all our hopes for our country’s economic future upon perpetual wars. Unlike the presidential candidates, I will suggest that America could cut its “defense” budget by half and revitalize our educational institutions, offer universal health care, repair our infrastructure, address climate change, pay off our national debt and still spend more on death and destruction than any other nation on the planet!


by Arnold Stieber, Chicago Chapter

War is a business.  Maybe that's why a day of peace - Armistice Day - has been transformed into a day of promotion of the military model of conflict resolution by violence. The original Congressional resolution on June 4, 1926 stated that 11/11 "should be commemorated with . . . exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations" and they invited "the people of the United States to observe the day . . . with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples".

 
We won't hear any of that.  Instead on 11/11 we'll hear about "patriotism", "sacrifice", "love of country", and "defending our freedom”.  We'll see plenty of flags and images of young people in full combat dress - good people trained and ordered to do awful things.   
 
I’m an Army, infantry veteran of the U.S. war against the people of Viet Nam.  Please observe 11/11 as it was originally intended.  Violence creates more violence, and violence is the fuel for a very profitable business.

by Don Kimball, Las Vegas Nevada

To the editor:
Friday, November 11th was Veterans Day. Originally Armistice Day, it was meant for remembering the horrors of WW1, the “War to End All Wars”. What we have today though it seems is a holiday that is just another three-day weekend, another opportunity for selling cars, and finally, to honor veterans. Well, most veterans here in Las Vegas anyway.
 
A contingent of around 15 veterans and family marching under the name Veterans For Peace in the Veterans Day parade were assaulted by parade organizers, bystanders and Las Vegas Metro. Our crime? Calling for an end to endless war. With banners and chants calling for peace, we proudly marched down the street remembering our pledge taken to defend and protect the Constitution. The First Amendment of that document guarantees all citizens freedom of speech. Except in the Las Vegas Veterans Day parade it seems.
 
Halfway through the parade, organizers threatened by messages of peace surrounded us with motorcycles and golf carts. Like they were herding so much cattle, they aggressively tried to stop us. Unsuccessful, they called in Metro. Totally overreacting to the situation, officers approached us from behind with sirens blaring while the Cub Scouts marching in front of us looked on in disbelief. Officers then proceeded to tackle and arrest some of the peaceful marchers. Despite our pleas and our display of the permit to march granted to us that morning, we were forced to take to the sidewalk where bystanders ripped up one of our banners.
 
Finally realizing their mistake, Metro released a veteran they had arrested. By now, the parade had ended and we returned home in shock and disbelief that we who had served had been treated with such disrespect and disdain. Shame on parade officials, Metro and the violent bystanders. Shame on Las Vegas. Shame on America.

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